By Vladimir Karnozov in Moscow

Russian airframer Aviacor is evaluating the relaunch of its Tupolev Tu-154M production line after Iran opened discussions on a major order for the trijet.

A group of Iranian carriers have asked the Samara-based manufacturer to consider a plan to produce 20 new aircraft. Aviacor stopped cutting metal for new airframes in the early 1990s, but continued to assemble new Tu-154Ms from stockpiled components. Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) took delivery of a new Tu-154M in December last year, while Avialinii Kubani received two last month – one of which is being completed as a VIP aircraft for the Samara regional administration. Aviacor has parts for six more aircraft, but a large order from Iran would likely require production to restart.

An Iranian delegation visited Aviacor last month to discuss the Tu-154M project and the An-140 turboprop assembled in Iran by the state-owed HESA plant. Aviacor has replaced KSAMC as the supplier of equipment kits for the locally assembled IrAn-140.

“Our relations with Iran have been developing on both the An-140 and Tu-154M programmes,” says Aviacor general director Sergei Likharev. “Now we supply HESA with An-140 equipment kits that allow us to form a larger joint order and thus cut down expenses.”

Iranian envoys are inspecting the Samara facility and plants in Ulyanovsk and Kazan to select a single supplier of medium-range airliners for the country’s state-owned airlines. The move follows the allocation of $600 million for fleet-renewal plans by Iranian President Ahmadinejad. Neither Airbus nor Boeing can sell to Iran due to the US trade embargo.

Iran has already placed orders for five Tupolev Tu-204-100s and taken 15 options, but the deal is conditional upon the ability of Tu-204’s design bureau, the Aviastar production plant and engine builder Perm to meet Iran Air’s requirements. The airline wants a major improvement in the reliability of systems and performance in hot-and-high conditions.

If Tupolev does not manage to meet the Iranian requirements, the buyer may purchase additional Tu-154Ms elsewhere to supplement its 12 owned and 10 leased trijets.

Meanwhile, Iranian carrier Mahan Air has taken two ex-Air Cairo Rolls-Royce RB211-powered Tu-204-120 passenger jets on lease from Sirocco Aerospace International.

Source: Flight International